Best paper for graphite drawings

In this guide, I'll dive into the exciting world of art paper, focusing on the general criteria you need to consider when selecting the ideal paper for your graphite drawings.

Namely, I'll be discussing paper texture, thickness, and quality.

So, what is the best paper for graphite drawings?

Short answer: For optimal quality and durability in graphite drawings, Arches paper is a good choice. It's durable, acid-free, and available in various textures and weights, making it a versatile choice for graphite drawings.

Arches paper is renowned for its exceptional quality. Being acid-free, it won't yellow or degrade over time, which is essential for artwork meant to last. Although it can be pricier than other types of paper, many artists find its benefits worth the investment.

Keep reading to better understand what makes a paper good for graphite drawings.

By understanding these aspects, you may find that another paper is the best paper for graphite drawings that matches your artistic style and elevates your work.

Understanding Paper Texture

The texture, or “tooth” as it's often referred to, is a significant factor to consider when seeking the best paper for graphite drawings.

In essence, the texture or tooth of a paper refers to its surface feel or roughness.

Think of it as the landscape of your paper: it can be smooth and flat like a calm lake, or it can be rough and uneven like a rocky mountain terrain. This texture plays a critical role in how the graphite from your pencil interacts with the paper.

Smooth vs. rough paper

Smooth paper, as the name suggests, has a flat and even surface.

It's excellent for capturing fine details, making it ideal for intricate graphite drawings. On the other hand, rough paper has a more textured surface, full of hills and valleys that can grab and hold more graphite. This results in a different drawing experience, often leading to a broader range of tones and depth in your artwork.

The impact of texture on graphite drawings

The texture of your paper directly impacts the drawing process and the final results of your graphite artwork.

With smooth paper, your pencil glides effortlessly across the surface, allowing for precise, detailed work. However, it might not give you the depth of tone that rougher papers can provide.

Conversely, rough paper with a lot of tooth can yield rich, deep tones because it can hold more graphite. However, it might not be as suitable for highly detailed work due to its uneven surface.

Choosing between smooth and rough paper isn't a matter of right or wrong—it's about what best suits your artistic vision.

Understanding the role of texture in your work will guide you in selecting the best paper for graphite drawings and help you create artwork that resonates with your unique style.

Importance of paper thickness

Next up in our journey to understand the best paper for graphite drawings is the concept of paper thickness.

Also known as paper weight, this factor plays a pivotal role in how your paper handles graphite and how durable your artwork will be.

Understanding paper weight and thickness (GSM)

When we talk about paper weight, we're essentially referring to its thickness.

This is often measured in GSM, which stands for grams per square meter. The higher the GSM, the thicker—and usually heavier—the paper.

For instance, a regular piece of printer paper might be around 75 GSM, whereas a more robust drawing paper might be 120 GSM or more. The thickness of the paper not only affects how it feels in your hand but also how it reacts to the graphite from your pencil.

Appropriate paper thickness for graphite drawings

The best paper for graphite drawings usually has a weight of over 80 lbs. (approximately 120 GSM or higher).

A thicker paper can withstand more erasing, rubbing, and layers of graphite without tearing, wrinkling, or bleeding through.

Of course, the “right” thickness may vary depending on your personal preferences and the specifics of your project. For instance, a quick sketch might be fine on lighter paper, while a detailed, finished piece might require a heavier, thicker paper.

How thickness affects durability and handling of graphite

The thickness of your paper can dramatically impact its durability and how it handles graphite.

Thicker paper is generally more durable, meaning it can take more of a beating from erasing and shading without showing signs of wear.

In terms of handling graphite, thicker paper often allows for more layering of graphite, providing a broader range of tones and depth. It can also prevent graphite from bleeding through to the other side, which is especially important if you're working on double-sided pieces or in a sketchbook.

Understanding paper thickness is key to choosing the best paper for graphite drawings.

By selecting the right thickness, you can ensure that your artwork is durable and that your paper handles the graphite in a way that meets your artistic needs.

The Role of Paper Quality

Now, let's shift our focus to another significant factor: paper quality.

What constitutes high-quality paper?

High-quality paper generally refers to paper that is well-manufactured and durable, with a consistent texture and thickness. It's often acid-free, which means it won't yellow or degrade over time. The quality of the paper can greatly influence the look and feel of your graphite drawings.

Benefits of using high-quality paper for graphite drawings

Using high-quality paper for your graphite drawings offers numerous benefits. Firstly, it tends to withstand the rigors of drawing better than lower quality paper, resisting tears and eraser damage more effectively.

Moreover, high-quality paper usually has a more consistent texture, which can lead to a smoother, more predictable drawing experience. It also provides a stable base for your graphite, ensuring that your strokes and shading appear as intended.

Another advantage is the longevity of your artwork. High-quality, acid-free paper will ensure that your graphite drawings don't yellow or deteriorate over time, preserving your creations for years to come.

Budget considerations for high-quality paper

While high-quality paper offers several advantages, it's important to be mindful of your budget.

High-quality paper tends to be more expensive than its lower-quality counterparts. But remember, investing in good quality paper is also investing in the longevity and overall quality of your artwork.

In conclusion, the quality of your paper is a significant factor to consider when seeking the best paper for graphite drawings.

While it may require a higher initial investment, the benefits of using high-quality paper—like durability, consistency, and longevity—can make it a worthwhile choice for any artist.

Recommended types of paper for graphite drawings

Now that we've covered the basics of texture, thickness, and quality, let's look at specific types of paper that you'll hear recommended as the best paper for graphite drawings.

I'll be focusing on four types of paper: charcoal paper, hot press watercolor paper, cartridge paper, and Arches paper.

Overview of suitable paper types for graphite drawings

  1. Charcoal Paper: Don't let the name fool you! Charcoal paper isn't exclusively for charcoal; it can also be a great option for graphite drawings.
  2. Hot Press Watercolor Paper: This versatile paper is not only suitable for watercolors but also works well with graphite, thanks to its thickness and smoothness.
  3. Cartridge Paper: This is the standard type of paper that many artists use for graphite drawings.
  4. Arches Paper: Known for its superior quality, Arches paper is often recommended for graphite pencil drawing.

Now, let's discuss each type of paper in detail, including their pros and cons and ideal uses.

Charcoal Paper: Despite its name suggesting it's meant for charcoal, charcoal paper also serves as an excellent surface for graphite drawings. It has a good amount of tooth, allowing for plenty of graphite to adhere to the surface and create rich tones. However, it might not be as suitable for highly detailed work due to its texture.

Hot Press Watercolor Paper: This type of paper is thick, smooth, and versatile, making it suitable for a variety of mediums, including graphite. It can handle a good amount of layering and erasing. However, its smoothness might not provide as much tooth as some artists prefer for creating textured effects or deep tones.

Cartridge Paper: This is a popular choice among artists for graphite drawings. It strikes a balance between smoothness and texture, making it versatile enough for both detailed and more textured drawing styles. However, the quality and thickness of cartridge paper can vary, so it's important to select a high-quality variant when aiming for professional results.

Arches Paper: This brand of paper is known for its exceptional quality. It's durable, acid-free, and available in various textures and weights, making it a fantastic choice for graphite drawings. However, Arches paper tends to be on the pricier side, so it might be more suitable for finished pieces rather than quick sketches or practice work.

Practical tips and advice

After exploring the technical aspects of choosing the best paper for graphite drawings, let's get practical!

Here, I'll provide some hands-on tips and advice to help you make an informed decision based on your specific project requirements. I'll also share some advice on where to buy and what brands to consider.

Choosing the right paper based on project requirements

When it comes to selecting the best paper for your graphite drawings, it's essential to consider the specific requirements of your project.

Here are some tips to guide your decision:

  1. Consider the level of detail: If your drawing involves a lot of fine details, you might prefer a smoother paper like hot press watercolor paper or high-quality cartridge paper. For more textured effects or deep tones, a paper with more tooth, like charcoal paper, could be a better choice.
  2. Think about the longevity: If you're creating a piece meant to last, it's wise to invest in high-quality, acid-free paper like Arches paper, which won't yellow or degrade over time.
  3. Evaluate the need for layering: If your work involves a lot of shading and layering, a thicker paper over 80 lbs (around 120 GSM or higher) would be a suitable choice, as it can handle more graphite without tearing or wrinkling.

Where to buy and what brands to consider

Art supply stores, both physical and online, are great places to find a wide range of paper suitable for graphite drawings.

Websites like Amazon, Dick Blick, and Jerry's Artarama offer a variety of brands and types of paper that you can purchase from the comfort of your own home.

As for brands, here are a few to consider based on the types of paper we've discussed:

  1. Strathmore: They offer a range of products including charcoal paper, watercolor paper, and various drawing papers. Strathmore is known for its quality and affordability.
  2. Arches: Known for their high-quality watercolor papers, Arches also provides excellent options for graphite drawings. They're a bit more expensive but well worth the investment for serious artwork.
  3. Winsor & Newton: They provide a range of art supplies, including cartridge paper, which is often used for graphite drawings.
  4. Canson: Another reputable brand that offers a variety of paper types suitable for graphite, including charcoal paper and watercolor paper.

What is the best paper for graphite and charcoal drawing?

The best paper for graphite and charcoal drawing often depends on the specific requirements of your project and your personal preferences. However, charcoal paper is a popular choice for both mediums due to its texture, which allows for plenty of graphite and charcoal to adhere to the surface and create rich tones. Other options like hot press watercolor paper, cartridge paper, and Arches paper are also suitable for both graphite and charcoal drawings.

What do you use for graphite drawing?

For graphite drawing, you'll need a few essential tools: a set of graphite pencils in a range of grades, a good quality eraser, a pencil sharpener, and, of course, good quality paper. The best paper for graphite drawings could be charcoal paper, hot press watercolor paper, cartridge paper, or Arches paper, depending on your personal preferences and the specifics of your project.

Can watercolor paper be used for graphite?

Yes, watercolor paper can be used for graphite drawings. In particular, hot press watercolor paper, which is smooth and thick, is a suitable choice for graphite. This type of paper can handle a good amount of layering and erasing, making it a versatile option for graphite drawings.

Is carbon paper better than graphite paper?

Carbon paper and graphite paper serve different purposes and whether one is “better” than the other depends on the specific needs of your project. Carbon paper is typically used for transferring an image or pattern onto another surface, while graphite paper is often used for creating artwork directly onto it. If you're planning to draw with graphite, then graphite paper or other suitable drawing paper would be a better choice than carbon paper.

Is graphite paper the same as charcoal paper?

While both graphite paper and charcoal paper can be used for graphite drawings, they are not the same. Graphite paper is typically smooth and designed to handle the specific characteristics of graphite. Charcoal paper, on the other hand, has a bit more texture or “tooth” to it, which can hold more graphite or charcoal and is suitable for creating rich tones and textures.

Do you seal graphite drawings?

Yes, it is often recommended to seal graphite drawings to protect them from smudging, dust, and moisture. This is typically done using a fixative spray, which creates a protective layer over the drawing without altering its appearance.

Do you need fixative for graphite drawings?

Using a fixative for graphite drawings is generally a good idea, especially for finished pieces. A fixative can help protect your drawing from smudging, dust, and moisture, and can also prevent the graphite from rubbing off onto other surfaces. However, it's not absolutely necessary for quick sketches or practice pieces.